Several months ago, I stumbled across Bourbon French Parfums of New Orleans on my endless quest for the perfect olive blossom – one that conjures up the smell of the Russian olives I fell in love with when we lived in Santa Fe. (Shiseido Saso comes very, very close). I was completely charmed by their website, which features vintage floral illustrations and is beautifully done. Quoting from their brochure, “Begun by August Doussan in 1843, this perfumery has been creating elegant, sensual fragrances for 160 years … Bourbon French still individually prepares each formula in small, personalized qualities.” I emailed them, explained I was a perfume blogger, asked for a few samples, and got back 12 tiny vials, which comprises only a part of their line.
The smell of the Bourbon French oeuvre wafting out of the mailing envelope is so powerfully delicious that I´ve been fighting the urge to dump them all together in one bottle ever since they arrived. It´s a wonderful smell – something (can I write this?) that captures the steamy, sensual, somewhat seedy charm of the Big Easy on my first trip there in college, when my friend and I were so broke we stayed in a flophouse with cockroaches the size of my hand and shoved the lone dresser in front of the unlockable door before retiring each evening. We were on the fourth floor of a rickety wooden building, and the fire escape plan was “jump,” which – who cares? – I was 20 and knew I´d live forever. Eventually we decamped to the apartment of some dude we met, where we could stay for free instead of paying the usurious $26 we´d been paying for the flophouse. We staved off his advances by telling him we were lesbians, which served only to increase his ardor (two girls! hottt!) … but I digress.
These are perfumes, eaux de toilette and colognes (there are ancillary bath products) and they have an old-fashioned feel to them – we are not talking Malle here, or fancy headspace technology. If you´ll open yourself to them, though, they have a distinctive earthy charm. They are grouped into several collections of blended fragrances, in addition to a number of soliflores – “Southern favorites,” vintage, and “exotic” – and how can you resist the charms of magnolia, sweet pea, olive blossom, white ginger and plumeria, to name just a few? For that matter, how can you resist “Voodoo Love, a recreation of the special potion by New Orleans´ Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau?” Or “Kus Kus, the soft, powdery original scent of New Orleans?”
My favorites among the soliflores they sent include the magnolia (which captures, beautifully, the weird, fleshy/vegetal greenness of the flower), orange blossom (sweet, old-fashioned and honeyed – sunshine in a bottle), and violet (an odd, strong scent that manages to be both powdery and green, and grew on me over time).
Among the collection, the Eleftorea is a gentle citrus cologne (bergamot, grapefruit, kiwi); the famed Kus Kus is a little powdery for me, but you fans of Teint de Neige would probably swoon; La Pluie conjures up not the muguet in its description so much as the delicate rain of its name; Marguerite, a “light clean, spicy fragrance” that´s a complete mystery in terms of content but contains a lovely note of sassafras; and the giggly Perfume of Paradise, “as steamy as a still July night on the bayou, as overwhelmingly hot as Cajun spice,” registers as mostly white flowers. I´m sad to say I didn´t wind up with any of the Men´s colognes, for instance, Eau de Noir (“the feel of incense with this dark, musky fragrance”) or the Musk Oil (“its aphrodesiac properties are legendary…”)
Again, these have an old-fashioned, easy feel that I find charming in their contrast to the haute parfums (some quite abstract) I smell much of the time. The next time you´re looking for an antidote to Antidote and the rest of the new releases, consider this line. The prices are quite reasonable. As far as I know, they still have a store on Royal Street, and if it´s anything like the website, I´d make a point to visit it. If nothing else, go take a 60-second peek at their website – the illustrations alone are worth the browse.
images in this post from the Bourbon French Parfums website